How do you know if your reactions to stress are normal or if you have an adjustment disorder? Do you cope well with change, or does any alteration in your life wreak havoc on your emotions? Recognizing the symptoms of this condition (aka stress response syndrome) is the first step to understanding adjustment disorders and getting help.
The primordial world of the earliest humans was quite different from today’s civilization. A vast expanse of different environments required these beings to adapt for survival. They faced incredible dangers from wild animals and natural hazards.
Fortunately, their evolving brains developed an automatic survival instinct. When they perceived a threat, their brains sent signals to their endocrine system to dump hormones into the bloodstream. Cortisol and adrenaline supplied temporary strength for them to fight or take flight.
This automatic survival instinct still works in people today. However, your brain sees stress as a threat, and you can be stuck in survival mode. According to an article by The Mayo Clinic, chronic stress can negatively affect your mind and body.
Understanding Adjustment Disorder (Stress Response Syndrome)
Another reason your survival instinct may be overloaded is if you have adjustment disorder or stress response syndrome. An article published by the Cleveland Clinic explains how it’s an excessive reaction to a stressful or traumatic event. Ironically, either positive or negative changes can cause this overreaction.
It’s usually a temporary condition caused by extreme stress. The stressors can be singular, or they can be a series of several events. It affects approximately two to eight percent of the population.
15 Behavioral Signs of Adjustment Disorder or Stress Response Syndrome
Has anyone ever told you that you overreact? Perhaps you can remember a significant event that triggered this condition. These are the fifteen primary behaviors someone with adjustment disorder (stress response syndrome) often displays.
1. Someone With an Adjustment Disorder Has a Strong Resistance to Change
Nobody likes change, and most people will often try to avoid it. Fear of the unknown and loss of control often contribute to resisting growth. Those with adequate coping skills learn to adapt and accept changes in their lives.
However, people with stress response syndrome often have a heightened resistance. You feel safe and comfortable within the perimeters of the status quo. The slightest rift in your routine can create profound anxiety and emotional turmoil.
2. They Try Their Best to Live in The Past
Have you ever met someone whose body is present, but their mind and lives are hostages of the past? Even when their history is tainted with disappointment, failure, or trauma, they idealize it. When you have an adjustment disorder, you may avoid present issues by hiding in the shadows of the past.
Many people find the present too hard to handle, so their minds seem to revert to the past for comfort. Hiding from your current situation is no more helpful than an ostrich hiding its head in the sand. Your reflections on the past may temporarily dull the stress, but they will never go away.
3. A Person With an Adjustment Disorder Always Fears the Worst-Case Scenario
People who overreact to change often tend to be pessimistic. Rather than hoping for the best, you may assume the worst-case scenario. If you have positive results, you’ll be presently surprised. Accepting adverse outcomes makes you think you’re saving yourself from shock and disappointment.
4. They Often Revise and Distort Past Memories
Listen to yourself when you recall events from the past. Are you a reliable self-historian, or do you revise your memories to improve them? If you experienced trauma, you might have developed a disorder that resists change.
This stress response syndrome may also lead to blocking or erasing unpleasant memories. Instead, you give a fictionalized account that’s all sunshine and roses, so you don’t have to admit the truth. This condition may stand in your way of healing from past traumas.
5. They Struggle with Irrational Fears
When you’ve experienced a traumatic event and barely survived, it’s understandable that you’d cope with fear later in life. Irrational fears or phobias are also common symptoms of adjustment disorder. The minor fights may cause you to overreact and go into panic mode.
6. Someone With an Adjustment Disorder Can Be Recklessly Impulsive
Stress response syndrome often presents with many symptoms that overcompensate for safety. However, the stress may cause you to be more impulsive than usual. You may develop impulsive behaviors and substance abuse problems that you never had in the past.
7. Stress Response Syndrome Also Causes Emotional Instability
Perhaps you’ve noticed that you have difficulty sorting out your emotions. Your feelings will be scattered across the board if you struggle with adjustment disorder issues. The over-reaction to stress may cause an assortment of fear, anger, and extreme depression.
8. They May Become Socially Isolated
People who don’t cope well with stress often feel safer when they’re alone. Something is comforting about staying in your familiar surroundings. Nobody can judge you or do anything that would make you feel uncomfortable.
Such thinking can cause you to isolate yourself from close family and friends. Soon, you may develop agoraphobia and can’t walk outside your home without extreme fear. Social isolation magnifies fear, depression, and anxiety.
9. They Notice More Aches, Pains, and Health Issues
The human body’s survival instinct was only meant to be a temporary reaction and not perpetual. The stress hormones meant to energize temporarily can be a health hazard when they’re constantly in your bloodstream. It can lead to hypertension, diabetes, kidney disorders, mental illness, and even premature death.
You can be stuck in this mode if you must deal with changes and an adjustment disorder. You may notice chronic aches, pains, and other health issues you’ve never had before. It’s a red flag that your body is sending you that it needs help.
10. Someone With an Adjustment Disorder Wants to Be the Center of Attention
Overreacting to stress and change may lower your self-worth and self-esteem. To compensate for your depleted self-image, you may try to draw attention. Maybe you crave someone to listen to you and empathize with your exhausted emotions.
Unfortunately, some folks may see this behavior as narcissistic or self-absorbed. They don’t know that stress response syndrome makes stress and change difficult for you. This may be one of the reasons you may begin to isolate yourself.
11. They Have Difficulties Creating and Maintaining Relationships
Most people can admit that relationships take more than just love. It requires a lot of work, patience, understanding, and compromise. Stress and arguments are a given for even the most loving relationships.
Since adjustment disorder compels you to avoid stress at all costs, you may not have a lot of meaningful relationships. You might also have a history of broken personal and professional interactions. You may tend to overreact to every situation, which may be too much for most folks.
12. They Have Low Energy Levels
It takes a copious amount of energy to stay in a perpetual state of stress. No wonder you may feel exhausted no matter how much you sleep. You may be in a brain fog that can hinder you at home and work.
Instead of going out and having a good time, you prefer to stay home and take a long nap. Just the thoughts of a new adventure may exhaust you. The fear of missing out makes you depressed, and your energy levels plunge even more.
13. Stress Response Syndrome Often Causes Perfectionism
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everything was perfect and stayed the same? This is an unrealistic mindset that isn’t based on reality, and it can lead to negative consequences. However, people with an adjustment disorder are often perfectionists who refuse to do anything without making a mistake.
14. These Symptoms Connect to Life’s Usual Stressors
Maybe you’ve recognized stressors that cause your disorder to activate. These are called triggers, and you may go out of your way to avoid them. For example, maybe being in a noisy crowd reminds you of a traumatic argument in your past.
Most people with this condition can often remember the event that brought the symptoms. You’ll try to avoid a repeat of the situation or any remotely similar triggers. You may even plan your entire day or happy occasions around stress avoidance.
15. They Have Self-Sabotaging Behaviors
One of the most unfortunate symptoms of stress response syndrome is that you may be sabotaging your happiness. Rather than face the stresses of a relationship, you’ll break up to stay calm. These symptoms may also rob you of chances to advance your career or realize your life-long dreams.
Final Thoughts on Symptoms of Adjustment Disorder
Do any of these symptoms seem painfully familiar to you? The good news is that you needn’t stay in the grasp of this debilitating disorder. Life is ever-changing, and you must embrace mindful living. That way, you don’t miss even one of the adventures waiting for you.